Welcome to the latest installment of the How to Speak Like a Data Center Geek series, Equinix’s guide to helping you fit into the wonderful world of data centers, or at least sound like you do. Today’s installment will focus on cloud computing and the various services that make it work. If you haven’t caught up on the previous installments, start here and work your way forward. Ready? No? Well, too bad, because we’re off!
Virtualization – The magic that makes cloud computing happen. Virtualization is a layer of software that sits between a computer and its operating system(s). Virtualization is the underlying technology responsible for the cloud’s ability to mask physical computing resources and create “virtual” analogs of them in software. These software analogs are what enable a single server to handle hundreds of separate workloads as though it were many servers. These virtual analogs also enable employees working remotely to access exact replicas of their office PCs. In essence, virtualization hides what’s real behind a veil of software and then simulates to users what they would see and experience if they were actually interacting with the real thing. See? Magic.
IaaS – Infrastructure as a Service is a fancy way of saying that the actual physical structure-the computers, storage, coffeemakers and other hardware necessary to host the cloud-is provided as a service by a separate entity or vendor. Many varieties of IaaS are available through cloud providers on Platform Equinix™. Companies colocating alongside cloud providers in Equinix data centers gain fast, direct connectivity to a full range of IaaS solutions, including Amazon Web Services. IaaS is the first of three layers in cloud computing.
PaaS – You might mistake this for the company that makes Easter egg coloring tablets, but in the cloud, PaaS stands for Platform as a Service. One of the layers of cloud computing-yes, there’s a theme here-PaaS provides not only the hardware but also the software needed to create a complete computing platform: the operating system(s), Web servers, databases and the like. Many PaaS providers offer services on Platform Equinix.
SaaS – The third layer of the cloud computing model is Software as a Service, often referred to as “on-demand software.” With SaaS, providers make applications available on a subscription or per-use basis, making it easy to scale up or down quickly and easily. Some players, such as Google and Amazon, offer services across all three layers of the cloud computing stack, but SaaS is a particularly crowded field, encompassing everyone from Adobe to Zynga. Equinix has become increasingly popular among SaaS providers, who use our global platform of 95+ data centers to distribute application servers in multiple geographies to ensure rapid application response times.
Private cloud – As suggested by the name, a private cloud is set up for use by a single organization. A private cloud can be owned and managed entirely by the organization itself, or parts of it can be outsourced to a vendor. Regardless, the computing resources that make up a private cloud are not shared with other organizations. (A cloud geek would say, “It’s not a multi-tenant environment.”) Private clouds are more easily customized than other types of clouds, but setup costs and effort are comparable to setting up a virtualized corporate data center, and computing resources do not scale up as readily as other cloud models.
Public cloud – Public clouds are available for use by many customers simultaneously. (It’s multi-tenant.) AWS, Microsoft Azure, Salesforce.com and Google-everything are popular examples of public clouds. Public cloud services can be IaaS, PaaS or SaaS-but the common thread is that the underlying computing resources are shared, and the services provided are scalable on demand, easy to provision and highly flexible. Information security may pose a concern, and cloud performance may prove erratic, so many organizations limit their use of public clouds to functions that won’t cripple the company should the cloud service fail.
Hybrid cloud – A hybrid cloud isn’t what you get from the exhaust pipe when you start your Prius. Rather, it’s a blended cloud architecture in which private clouds are connected to public clouds, usually for purposes of scaling up and/or delivering data. One common setup for hybrid clouds is called “cloud bursting,” where an application runs in the private cloud until extra resources-or to use a technical term, oomph-become necessary, at which point the application connects to the public cloud to share the load. Hybrid cloud combines the best of public and private cloud, as SaaS provider Badgeville discovered when it built a hybrid cloud on Equinix, boosting application performance by up to 40%.
That’s it for now, but we’d be remiss if we didn’t add that data center geeks have a thing for interconnection, since it’s essential for the enterprise to compete. Download Equinix’s IOA Playbook, which describes an interconnection-first architecture that securely connects people, locations, clouds and data.
And check out every post in the “Speak Like a Data Center Geek” series. (Please note: We welcome binge readers):
Part 4: Cloud (see post above)
Part 7: Security and reliability